Cape Town is facing a shortage of hotels for the 2010 football World Cup
The QE2 owners are in final talks to move the ship to Cape Town in South Africa to become a hotel in time for the 2010 football World Cup.
Cunard sold the Southampton-based liner for £50m to the United Arab Emirates real estate developer Nakheel.
It had planned to refurbish the ship and open it as a floating hotel in Dubai but that has been put on hold.
The QE2 will now go to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, where there is a shortage of hotel rooms.
Nakheel, which has a financial interest in the South African port, said the ship would be staying in Cape Town for 18 months.
A spokesman for the firm said: "It has been our intention for some time to provide a short term opportunity to enjoy QE2 as a stationary hotel in her current condition before refurbishment begins.
"It is clear that Cape Town provides the best opportunity for us to open QE2 to visitors as quickly as possible.
"In addition, the forthcoming 2010 Football World Cup makes a sensible business case for moving her there."
Paul Clifton, BBC South's transport correspondent, said: "The company planned to have QE2 as the star attraction of a big resort in Dubai.
Thousands of people watched the vessel leave Southampton to fireworks
"It has already built the mooring for it.
"But Nakheel is a property developer and the recession has hit Dubai property values hard.
"Nakheel has cancelled other projects and laid off hundreds of staff and contractors. QE2 is simply a victim of the recession.
"But many of the ship's huge worldwide fan club will be delighted that she's not being refurbished but kept for now just as she is."
He said the ship was expected to be moved to South Africa under its own power, but the sale contract with Cunard meant it could not carry passengers as a cruise ship.
In a further statement, Nakheel said: "We are pleased to have received the support of the tourism minister and we will work in collaboration with the authorities to finalise plans for getting her there."